In the 1990s, we planted vineyards in the hills above the winery using Dijon clones from France. These clones were highly regarded in Burgundy but untested in Philo. To hedge our bets, we divided the three sites into 18 separate blocks and planted six different clones. This approach allows us to blend wines from different clones in varying amounts to create the best wine from that site. After harvesting, the grapes from each of the blocks were fermented in small bins then aged as separate lots in French oak barrels—around 35% new—for 11 months. We then tasted each lot and chose the best wine created from the various clones within each site; these cuvées were then assembled and returned to the barrel for another six months of aging prior to bottling.
Pigeage is a minimalist winemaking approach that yields distinctive wines which reflect the character of each vineyard site.
Snow in the upper Marking Corral after winter pruning. The vines in the upper section are cane-pruned with a vertically shoot-positioned trellis. The vines in the lower section are trained on a Lyre trellis and cordon-pruned; we planted clone 115 in both sections to compare the effect of trellis and pruning.
The Marking Corral is our highest vineyard at 1,180 to 1,250 feet in elevation. From the seven Pinot Noir blocks, we selected a cuvée of 52% Clone 115, 34% clone 777 and 14% clone 114 as best representing this vineyard in 2019. The wine has a tart, juicy quality with deep red fruit flavors and hints of cassis, clove, and spicy oak followed by an exceptionally long finish. Comparing these tiny lots underlines the significance of elevation, exposure, microclimates and clones.